"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Becket


I read once where he would never have been a saint if he hadn't been martyred. Which reminds me of of Amy Welborn's comment on her home page, "She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." (This quote is what endeared Amy to me - one has to love such humility.)
I think Becket was Richard Burton's best role. St. Thomas was very worldly, athletic, finely educated, and possessed exquisite taste. Amidst all the temptations of court it is said he remained virtuous and chaste. Always a just man, even though the king's best friend.
He died opposing the State, murdered in his Cathedral at vespers. After his death his piety and asceticism were soon found out, he had worn a hairshirt, and privately lived a penitential life with minimal comforts. Actually, I think he would have been a saint regardless of the martyrdom.
Henry VIII dismantled his shrine and his relics were lost, undergoing a posthumous martyrdom of sorts at the hands of another king I'd say.
Catholic Online has a good biography on the saint while Fr. Nicholas has an interesting post on the feastday as observed in the UK.
St. Thomas Becket brings to mind a similar martyr - I wonder if Archbishop Oscar Romero will ever be canonized? He does have the title, "Servant of God".

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jeffrey Mylett


I'm stunned. I met this guy when I lived in Assisi - we shared a room at the Atonement Sisters, just up from the Basilica Santa Chiara. I had a photo of myself with him - that I sent to David and Stephanie - they were supposed to send it back! David! I want it back!

Jeff was in Assisi because he loved St. Francis and was spiritually seeking after acting in "Godspell". He was very humble - he told me he was in "Godspell" but I hadn't realized he had a starring role in it. We became friends in that short time. We went to the Carceri together, I stayed for a few days, when I returned, he was gone.

Tonight, as I was looking for a good looking character to post for my profile photo, I came upon Jeff. I was so sad to learn he had died. I know we all die, but it's stunning to find out, no matter when. I'm absolutely stunned.
We were the same age...I'm jealous...and deeply saddened. He died in 1986.
Wow! I'm just so saddened. I didn't know.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Oh Tannenbaum! At The Met Museum NYC


I'm still trying to take a better photo of my Christmas tree - until then, this is the very best Christmas tree in the world, with a lovely Neapolitan presepio at the base.

We really have the Germans to thank for the continuity of the Christmas tree. I read where the Holy Father has two trees in his apartment. (I hope his kitty cat is with him.) He also has all of his Bavarian delicacies to eat, and Kloster beer. I wonder if he will have marzipan? It would be fun to spend Christmas with him.





One should read Athanasius Contra Mundum for a fine history of the Christmas Tree and it's Christian significance.
This is the best close up I could find of the Presepio, from the collection of Loretta Hines Howard. In addition to this donation to the Met, she also donated a lovely presepio to Regina Laudes, the Abbey in Bethlehem Connecticut, where Mother Delores Hart resides.

The Word became flesh...



"One Word the Father spoke (Which is His Son) and this Word He speaks in eternal silence, and It is in silence It is heard by the soul." - St. John of the Cross

The Grace of God Has Appeared...


And the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light...
For today a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord!
A blessed and holy Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve...


A painting by Michael Sowa. (See, the guy has his computer!)
"Alone on Christmas"
(Actually, I'm not alone, a friend is here. But I love quiet Christmas eves.)
Being alone on Christmas is rather nice if one is religious - especially so when one is a Catholic.
As one ages, especially when one is single, Christmas changes. The emphasis, in my experience, is less upon self, gifts and parties, and becomes decidedly more spiritual, concentrated upon the mystery of Christ's birth, while focused upon others and their needs. (Even when one is a hermit of sorts.)
Being alone is not as frightful as others think. Men and women enter cloistered monasteries and never see their families or share in worldly celebrations, just as hermits have done for centuries. The urban hermit does likewise.
Christmas is completely different for the mature person, since the celebration has long evolved to acclimate the person to relishing the solitude.
Those who need compassion, our thoughts and prayers - as well as our presence, are those abandoned in nursing homes, or those who have recently lost a loved one, thus radically changing their experience and perception of Christmas.
Others in need are the soldiers, whether in combat or stationed away from family and loved ones, many away from home for the first time.
The men and women in prison - even if it is a psychological prison of some illness or disorder, along with the homeless of course, and the indigent.
There are families trapped in abuse, battered wives and children. The sexually exploited of all ages, as well as those entangled in the drug culture, or a life of crime and violence of any sort.
Neither can we forget those who refuse to believe in Jesus, or those who may not understand Him, or even know of Him.
These are the people who are really alone on Christmas, and not always by choice.
Let us remember them when we visit the creche to adore the Divine Infant Jesus.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Devotion to the Nino Jesus in Carmel


Pictured, "The Nino of St. John of the Cross."
The Carmelite nuns of Lake Elmo first introduced me to devotion to the Child Jesus as a young adult at the time of my conversion and return to the Church in 1972.
As a child I never felt attracted to the devotion of the Infant Jesus, mostly represented as the Infant of Prague, as I pretty much thought it sissified and only for little girls. I was more attracted to the mature Jesus, especially His Sacred Heart, probably because I needed a strong masculine model in my childhood, since my father was often absent.
It wasn't until my second conversion in 1978 that I was able to embrace the devotion completely. In the early 1970's, after returning from a rather sinful life, my focus was upon the passion of Christ, particularly His Holy Wounds, and Holy Face, devotions that are the balm of penitents.
Later, the Carmel of Our Lady of Divine Providence at Lake Elmo, Minnesota, finally published their novena booklet to the Infant Jesus. Mother Paula sent me a copy practically each time we corresponded. The nuns made public their custom of the monthly novena to the Infant Jesus from the 16th to the 25th of each month. I adopted the practice in union with them.
This happened at a time of awakening in my second conversion, wherein I understood the roots of my sin went all of the way back to childhood, hence the Divine Child Jesus became my companion and counsellor in the process. In the beginning I could only bring myself to venerate Him as the Bambino in the poverty of Bethlehem. Gradually, as He took me through His Childhood while mirroring my own, I was able to embrace every aspect of His Childhood, delighting in nearly every representation, albeit the Bambino remains dearest to me.
The monthly novena is an efficacious spiritual practice. It focuses the soul upon the mystery of the Incarnation, the Nativity, and the early years of Our Lord's life. The nuns recommend that one not limit the Divine Child by asking for particular favors, since He already knows our needs. I pray the novena to draw close to the Divine Child with the confidence that I shall want for nothing. However, He is a little Child and He knows how little children are, hence he is never put off by our particular requests, indeed, He enjoys listening to them.
The chief effect of devotion to the Infant Jesus is He becomes our constant companion, and increases our capacity to love. In some cases He heals the wounds inflicted upon us in our childhood, tracing our sins to these roots, helping us to overcome them, or at least humbly repent, with greater self knowledge each time we fall. The Infant Jesus instills humility, confidence and love, as He traces out the way of Spiritual Childhood for us.
The Divine Child is vulnerable and open to all, especially sinners. He teaches us to refrain from judging another, or condemning another, and if we do, He quickly reminds us of our own sins to gently reprimand us. With him the soul is able to see the Divine spark within even the most hardened and offensive person, often indicating to us that person's pain, loneliness, and isolation. The Divine Child teaches us to love and have compassion, even upon ourselves - He rejects no one who comes to him. He elicits such a love from our hearts that we quickly find ourselves loving without desire for sensual gratification or self-seeking, rather loving for Love's sake alone.
The monthly novena also prepares us for the Solemnity of Christmas, since we are already disposed to the true meaning of the feast. Devotion to the Divine Infancy prepares the heart, as a farmer has plowed and planted his field. waiting for the heavenly dew of this mystical night, when the grace of God has appeared. Although, this night, even the least prepared soul, upon gazing at the Divine Infant cannot help but be impressed with His merciful love...it is not just the many He invites and welcomes, but all.
Tonight, in Carmel, the nuns, with lighted candles, will process with the Infant Jesus, from cell to cell, looking for room at the Inn. Each nun, will arise to meet her Bridegroom until all the community has joined the procession. Finally they will arrive in chapel and place the Little Jesus in the manger, and midnight Mass will commence. During the Octave of Christmas, the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague will be exposed in the extern chapel for the veneration of the faithful.
The Infant Jesus once revealed to the venerable Fr. Cyril, "The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." Indeed, He has certainly blessed our Carmel with many fervent and holy vocations in response to their devotion. He has blessed me as well.
Merry Christmas!